Does Collagen Make You Gain Weight?
You are struggling to lose weight and you thought that taking collagen would help. But now you feel worse and wonder if it is the collagen making you gain weight. I hear you. The exact same thing happened to my wife.
There are a lot of mixed messages out there about whether or not collagen can help with weight loss. Some people say it helps, while others claim it makes you gain weight. So what's the truth?
The truth is that collagen itself doesn't make you gain or lose weight. However, how you use collagen can affect your weight. If you consume too much collagen, it can add extra calories to your diet and lead to weight gain.
But the odds are that something else is going on that warrants an explanation. Keep reading as I will explain everything to you.
Before we dive in, I'll mention that many people tolerate a high quality bone broth better than collagen.
You get more health benefits and more protein without the bloat, nausea or water retention.
My favorite for this is the chicken bone broth powder from Bluebird Provisions.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a protein that gives our bodies its internal shape and structure because of the unique properties it possesses. It makes up our skin, bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, fascia, joints and connective tissue.
It is also found in our hair, eyes, organs including our intestines. It plays a crucial role in repairing damaged tissues, forming blood clots and growing new cells.
Our bodies naturally make collagen and deposit it where we need it most. This is what keeps our hair growing, skin looking supply and joints moving properly.
Learn more about the fascinating collagen health benefits including blood sugar control, sleep and mental heath.
What Happens When we Age?
The frustrating thing is that as we get older, our body gets less efficient at making new collagen, which is what makes us look older (wrinkles, hair loss) and feel older (creaky joints).
Many people take collagen peptides to lose weight, reduce wrinkles and fix their joint pain. While there is some evidence to suggest that it is good for some of these things, the answer may not be what you are looking for.
That is because collagen formation in the body is complicated. You can't direct all of the collagen you take to your wrinkles.
It doesn't work that way. You can, however, optimize how you use it for joint and tendon pain or rehab. More on that below.
Does Collagen Make You Gain Weight
No, collagen does not directly make you gain weight, unless you are taking enough to get your body into a caloric surplus. It actually may help you lose weight because of the protein, metabolism boosting effects and how it makes you feel full.
In fact, one study showed that patients who ate gelatin (which is very similar to bone broth) were 44% less hungry than those who ate casein (a milk protein found in cottage cheese and yogurt) (1).
That being said, some people report weight gain because collagen can cause bloating, bone growth and water retention. It's not all sunshine and butterflies, you can learn about whether collagen is bad for you in this article.
Can Collagen Cause Weight Gain
Collagen can cause gain weight if taking it causes nudges you into consuming more calories than you are burning in a typical day or because you are increasing bone mineral density over time.
You would need to be taking a lot of it (200-400 calories worth) per day in addition to what you typically eat for you to truly gain weight.
I suspect that most of the supposed weight gain people report from collagen is due to bloating, water retention and feeling full.
But in some cases, if you are merely adding collagen to a typical day, without removing any other foods, you can possibly gain weight. That is how the laws of thermodynamics work.
Also, since it can help with bone mineral density and increasing joint health, in theory you could gain a bit of weight in bone mass and joint cartilage.
The important thing to note is that increasing in joint cartilage and bone mass do not contribute to fat tissue or visible signs of being obese.
So if you are concerned about your appearance, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to collagen rich foods like bone broth. But there are many other factors that make this a very small possibility. I'll explain those below.
Want to learn more? Read my guide on the size of the collagen market.
Why do I gain weight when I take collagen?
If you are gaining weight when you take collagen over the long-term, then it is likely because you are getting increases in bone mineral density, more connective tissue around your joints, retaining water or bloating.
Let's go through each of these in a bit more detail.
Can collagen make you retain water?
Collagen may cause you to retain water in your skin and its cells because of its role in supporting capillary walls. It helps keep the walls strong and prevents them from leaking, which can lead to increased water retention (2).
You also may notice that your skin is retaining water. This is what we call a 'feature, not a bug.' Meaning that collagen increases your skin's hydration, making it appear more full and vibrant (2).
While some people report bloating while taking it, a recent study shows that eating collagen rich foods reduced bloating in 93% of women (3). It also improved digestion and gut health in these participants when given a daily dose of 20 g per day for 6 weeks.
Collagen and Bone Mineral Density
A recent study showed that women who take 5 g collagen for one year experienced significant increases in bone mineral density and bone formation with a reduction in bone degradation (4).
The study looked at post menopausal women and showed significant improvements in spine and leg bone health markers. So if you're looking for stronger bones, give it a shot.
Increased Joint Cartilage
Consuming a collagen rich diet is shown to help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis by increasing cartilage and connective tissue around joints (5).
In theory, you may end up with a bit more weight in the form of cartilage, but this is not likely to contribute to any real, noticeable weight gain.
Why Collagen Supplements Do Not Cause Weight Gain
Collagen supplements likely do not cause weight gain because they are high in protein, they keep you feeling full, they help build muscle and tendons and they might improve your digestion.
I'll explain each of these below, because some of it will apply to you and your health goals.
It Keeps You Feeling Full
The type of protein in collagen can help you feel full or satiated after a meal. One study showed that those who ate gelatin were 44% less likely to report being hungry than those who ate casein.
Collagen is also shown to increase blood leptin levels. For those of you unfamiliar, leptin is a hormone that gets release by the brain when we are full.
People became obsessed with trying to make pills that work on the leptin system, but they never worked properly.
Anyways, leptin sends signals to your brain that you are full and don't need more food. The cool thing is that the benefits of this satiation can last for hours, reducing your appetite and helping curb hunger pangs.
Since collagen is 100% protein, consuming it through food means you are probably eating more protein than you usually would. High protein diets are shown to stimulate the release of our fullness hormones while suppressing hunger ones like ghrelin (6).
Also, simply eating more protein causes your body to burn more calories because it stimulates your metabolism. This effect, known as thermogenesis (or the thermic effect of food) states that protein burns more calories than fat or carbs in your body (7).
Fixes Your Damaged Gut
Improving your gut health can help you lose weight because it changes how the bacteria interacts with the calories you eat. Studies show that the guts of obese people can literally harvest more calories from the same food as non obese people (8).
I sound like a broken record, but bone broth is the main food high in collagen and glycine that can help to reduce inflammation in your gut.
It Fuels Your Tendons and Ligaments
Collagen supplements can help improve joint mobility and increase cartilage. It can also help to heal nasty tendon or ligament injuries when combined with the right exercises.
Getting you healthier and feeling better makes it easier for you to enjoy activities that burn more calories. This can make it easier for you to manage your overall health and wellness... including weight.
The best way to lose fat is to build muscle because muscle burns more calories than fat throughout your day. One study showed that those who took collagen during a 12 week weight training program improved lean muscle mass over those who didn't take it (9).
The cool thing is that this group lost more fat during the course of the study as well. It pays to lift weights!
It also might help with hair growth, but you'll have to read that article to get the definitive answer.
The Best Collagen For Weight Loss (not what you think)
The best collagen for weight loss is not actually collagen, it is a high protein bone broth. Why is bone broth better? It contains gelatin as the main protein source, instead of collagen.
Now collagen and gelatin are very similar in terms of protein and amino acids except this crucial difference. Gelatin 'gels' at fridge temperature while collagen does not.
This same gel is present in bone broth and is the reason why people report feeling more full after consuming gelatin than any other protein.
Why does the gel help with weight loss? This gel also forms in your gut as you are digesting it. It helps to attract digestive enzymes into your gut that make you feel satiated and relaxed.
It is also superior for healing damaged guts because of the extra glycine (10).
The best bone broth for this is the chicken one from Bluebird Provisions. At the time of this writing, you can find it on Amazon Prime for free shipping.
Does collagen help with belly fat?
Collagen does not help with body fat because you cannot reduce fat in specific areas of your body. You can lose weight using collagen rich foods like bone broth, but it will not specifically target your belly fat. Nothing will.
The truth is, collagen won't make you gain weight on its own. However, if you're not careful about what you eat and drink while taking it, you could end up packing on a few pounds.
For this reason, I always recommend that you get your collagen from foods like bone broth. This is a more natural approach which doesn't mess with your bodies feeding and hunger signalling hormones.
If you're looking for a safe and delicious way to get your collagen fix, go ahead and try Bluebird Provisions bone broth.
It has the same protein but 5x the electrolytes (potassium and magnesium) to get rid of any bloating or water retention you have.
Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your primary care physician for advise on any of this.